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If a parent brings a child (defined as under 13 for a boy and under 12 for a girl) into a store, and that child damages an item, is the parent responsible to pay?

Would it matter if the child simply damaged an item (e.g. pushed a crystal vase, and it shattered into ∞ pieces), or if the child actually benefited from the damaged item (e.g. consuming a candy)?

(answers should focus on the Jewish law aspect and ignore issues of civil law)

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Under American law, there is no such thing as "you break it you buy it." –  Bruce James Mar 20 '13 at 19:00

3 Answers 3

From Shut Igrot Moshe, Yoreh Deah, Part 2, Siman 10: ... My opinion is that the Katan (Minor?) that caused damage will have to pay when he grows up. Then he says that not everybody agrees to this (and think that he doesn't have to pay even when he grows up) but he couldn't find their opinion in Shulchan Aruch. So the discussion is about the Katan's payment not his parents. I saw more than a dozen Shuts that deal with the question and none have the opinion that the parents have to pay. As my son pointed out: "why should the father pay? he is not his animal, not his pit, not his arrow and not his fire". BTW when the father says "Baruch sheptaranu monsho shel zeh" he is speaking of spiritual matters.

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Can leading a small child into a store be compared (l'havdil) to bringing a shor into someone's private reshut (and thereby be liable for any damage it causes)? –  Bruce James Mar 20 '13 at 19:02

I am not sure of the answer but i remember hearing an answer as an example of daas baalei batim keneged daas toirah: A normal baalabus would think that if a child damaged you are chayav but if an animal damaged you aren't because you have more control over the child as in chinuch, but in reality daas toirah is the other way around. It would seem from this example that parents are patur from their childrens' actions (damages) but would probably have to pay for benefiting damages for the same reason as by animals: the parent was saved from spending money.

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Yes the parent is obligated, and yes it makes a difference in the type of damage.

If the child breaks a vase, the parent just has to pay for the vase. If the child eats a candy, the parent has to pay for the candy and any other penalty that might apply for a theft.

Until 13 the parent takes on all the punishments that are due to that child, and those are the punishments due the child.

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Avi, please cite your sources. I believe you made a few incorrect assumptions. 1) A parent can be held liable for the damage caused by the child, but the extra penalty is upon a person who steals with intent. A child cannot be held liable for his crimes b/c he cannot form intent, so I don't see how the parent can then be held liable for the penalty. Furthermore, any penalty needs to be imposed by Beith Din with 2 witnesses. If you have a source for this, I'd love to see it. 2) I can't remember the circumstances for 1/5, but I don't believe this falls under that category. Again, source? –  Seth J Nov 9 '11 at 14:35
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Pesukim, please. I am asking for sources regarding the applicability of the Halacha to this particular case. With regard to the B"D, the shopkeeper cannot go over to the parents and demand repayment for anything but the cost of the candy. There would need to be two witnesses testifying that ... well, I don't know. That's my point. What would they be testifying about? That they warned the kid without Da'ath that he'd better not steal? How could B"D rule that the parents need to pay the Kenas if he never had Da'ath in the first place? –  Seth J Nov 9 '11 at 14:54
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@SethJ - The source for paying a punitive 1/5 is found in B'midbar 5. Your points about applicability are well taken. –  WAF Nov 9 '11 at 14:59
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That's what I meant by sources. The Torah doesn't stipulate whether or not one must go to court for the 1/5th payment or not. Furthermore, BaMidbar 5:5-8 is ambiguous in terms of what cases fall under this Mitzvah. But I finally got around to looking it up. Per Rashi, this is referring to a case in which someone lied about the theft. Again, Da'ath here is also important, and it is, I think, pretty clearly a Ḥiyyuv imposed by Beith Din, unless you have a source that rules and/or proves otherwise. –  Seth J Nov 9 '11 at 16:33
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Where are you coming up with this idea that it's all about D'ath? You gain Da'ath at the age of 6. (or more correctly, when you stop crying for your mother at night) Bar mitzvah is when you gain the Yetzer Tov. It is a parents obligation to make sure their children do not steal. –  avi Nov 10 '11 at 11:27

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